GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A Gulfport project is getting a green-light after years of discussions. The city's four fishing piers had essentially been abandoned since 2012 when Hurricane Isaac damaged them. Now, a contractor has been approved to get the reconstruction rolling.
Gulfport's fishing piers didn't make it through Hurricane Isaac unscathed. Since then, the city has been talking about repairing them, but there's been one big hurtle to jump.
"Really it was the environmental concerns that would have stopped the project. So we had to get that cleared first," said city consultant, Walter Rode.
NOAA and the National Marine and Fisheries Services conducted a Biological Opinion study that eventually gave permission for reconstruction in 2014. After a 45-day process the city approved the lowest bid from J. E Borries to make the repairs.
Now, Gulfport residents are getting excited.
"I think that's a blessing. We need that out here," said one resident. "That's been a long time coming, and it's about time," said another.
Craig Miller and his grandson make frequent trips to the jetty at Moses Pier, and he's looking forward to the day when they can walk past the barricades.
"It's good for tourism and it goes along with the golf course and the casinos and everything else. It's the total package," said Miller.
And it's not just the tourists that will benefit from the repairs. Justin Roland owns a bait shop at the entrance to Moses Pier. He said if it hadn't been for the city council's hard work, the renovations wouldn't be getting done.
"I know they're just as excited probably to get the questions answered and to get underway with the reconstruction," said Roland.
During the 28 months that the piers have been closed, Roland has seen a significant drop in business.
"For us specifically, once the piers are opened, when our peak season arrives we'll see, overnight, a 40-50 percent increase in our operating receipts," said Roland.
He's also looking forward to seeing the Westside Pier reopening and being renamed in memory of his mother, and longtime city figure, Libby Milner Roland.
"It came as a surprise to my father and our family and we're very honored," said Roland.
Construction is set to begin in mid-February. According to officials, all or most of the piers should be completed by the end of May. The cost is just under $850,000.